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Pushing into Happiness

Something as simple as having a good day should be accessible to everyone. Unfortunately, “bad days,” especially at work, are disturbingly common. In the modern world, where we spend most of our time working at a job we don’t love (or yelling at strangers in rush-hour traffic on the way home from that job), having a good day can sometimes feel more like a privilege than a right. 

Thankfully, there are tools and practices that can help you take back the power over how your day is going to go. That’s right, even when your circumstances are less than ideal—maybe that job is having you work overtime—there’s always something you can do to turn your bad day into a good one. 

If you’re skeptical about that, you might first want to define what having a good day means to you. Caroline Webb, author of the book How to Have a Good Day: Harness the Power of Behavioral Science to Transform Your Working Life, suggests asking yourself the following three questions:

  1. Did I spend my time and attention on things that matter?
  2. Do I feel that I did a good job and had the support of others?
  3. Did the day leave me feeling more energized than depleted?

You can come up with your own version of these questions based on your values. If your answer to one of the questions is a hard no, then that’s a good place to start diagnosing what might be missing. For example, if you feel that you’re not spending your time and attention on things that matter, ask yourself what you could be doing instead. However, what if you can’t change your circumstances—maybe you’re not spending time on things that matter because you feel as though your entire job doesn’t matter!—what are you supposed to do then?

One thing you can do is shift the context for yourself. How you think about your circumstances is sometimes more important than the circumstances themselves. You can look at your job as a boring place that underpays you; or, you can see it as the thing you’re doing to provide for the family you love. Notice how your job stayed the same, but how you feel about your job just radically shifted. So, when you ask yourself if you spent the day on things that matter, you can confidently answer, “Yes. I worked hard to provide for my family.” 

You can supplement that change in perspective with some proactive action. Take thirty minutes in the morning to work on something that really inspires you (for instance, learning a new skill, reading something important, or spending additional quality time with someone you love.) Before you know it, your day is off to a great start. 

You have more control over your day than you realize. Ask yourself the questions that matter, so that you can take back the power over the quality of your life and have a good day, no matter what.

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